By Jen Minor
Counting down the seconds till I drop with an ear to ear nervous smile, I wonder if they can tell how nervous I am. Pioneer Square is cluttered by onlookers, supporters, friends, bright colored rain jackets and neon sunglasses reflecting the snow. It’s my last hit. I’ve got to make it count.
One… two… three… drop.
My names Jen Minor, 19, and I’m a journalism student at Rogue Community College who made it into Fuel TV’s Cricket Campus Rail Jam snowboarding finals, held May 28 at Pioneer Square in Portland.
I qualified for finals in Corvallis last Friday. To my astonishment, three days later I received the email invite to the finals in Portland — my chance to compete for a $1,000 cash prize, a FuelTV interview, and wide recognition! So my boyfriend Sam saved $200 to drive me in the last few days. I can’t believe it all came together.
It feels odd getting this chance. I’m giddy all over. In one perspective it’s just a rail competition. What chance do I have against sponsored girls, or pros? I’m just a small town girl snowboarder, who grew up riding Mt. Ashland, a mountain many don’t know exists, with ghetto boxes and crooked rails, can I actually make something out of this? Is a career in snowboarding attainable?
“Hey everyone!” the announcer said. “Welcome to the Cricket Campus Rail Jam finals! These guys and girls are the best of the best on the West coast all packed into one final. Every competitor here has worked hard just to be in the finals in Portland, right here in pioneer square. Give em’ a hand!”
I’m soaked from helmet to boots. My hair is such a mess.
“Alright Ladies you ready?” the announcer barked into the microphone. “Go ahead and drop!”
Excited. Nervous. Feeling sick. Stoked. Really nervous. Alright, I’ve got this. I can do it! Straighten out the board… drop and ollie. I’m on the rail. I’m doing it… no, no, no… Ouch, my ribs! I guess not. Right to the ribs on top of the middle double-kinked rail. So embarrassed. This is gonna hurt later. It’s alright, just get up and laugh it off. It’ll be okay, I thought.
The pouring rain never ceased.
“Why the rail first?” I thought and unstrapped my green Flux bindings. Smiling, I stood up, raced over and anxiously waited on the scaffolding stairs. Water logged, sprinting up rickety rusty scaffolding to slide the boxes again, my soggy hair slaps my face.
That moment on the box is like you’re frozen in time gliding down the box, your muscles pressing to stay on. In three seconds the end comes into focus. The board’s base touches down. Focus and adrenaline block out white noise. Sublimely, thousands of people watching, blaring music, announcers, judges and photographers (the white noise) disappear. You glide down the box in slow motion, and the rest is a paused movie. But once you land, the play button is pressed and all the white noise reappears. The clapping, cheering masses, camera flashes, announcers, and the rain drops play as the movie continues.
I stare into the saturated crowd before me, sponging up the atmosphere. Sam is waving, blowing kisses, shouting my name, Mike and his girl friend are bundled in jackets, drowned, trying to stay dry and yelling at the top of their lungs. I wait my turn, I’m ready, ready to drop.
I focus. Count to three. Here goes.
One… two… three… drop.
Leaning to the side, over my front left binding, I pressed as hard as I could to stay in a nose slide on the rainbow down box. The rain drenched me, my board, and the box. The slippery rainy box didn’t equal out as I wanted it to. “I’m coming off to early, no!” I thought falling to the bottom of the landing in the transformed snow-slush. I thought to myself again. “Just laugh”. Slush hitting my face, engulfing my boots and bindings, I hurriedly unstrapped my board.
(After hitting features, it’s important to move out of the landing. Since its jam format, riders can take as many runs as time allows.)
By the time I opened my eyes Sam was on the phone getting directions to our friends. When I realized I failed at staying awake and secondly we were finally driving amongst Portland houses. “Wake up guys! We’re here!” I shouted almost yawning.
“Alright this time I’m going to try the gap to down box” I muttered to myself under my breath stepping up to the top drop-in. Flying down the drop-in, picking up speed, my heart beats faster, I turn my board into a back tail, my shoulders don’t follow my board and legs. Trying to remain calm, I can’t react fast enough. My butt slams on the box and I side out into the slush. Coating myself in the icy mess, I smile and just laugh. Oh, man, that was embarrassing, I think and pick myself up with the drive to get it right.
Running past the crowd at least ten times, and waiting in line to run up the stairs again. The rain drops are bigger, hitting harder. I’m having a blast talking to the others girls, enjoying myself and hoping to land my next trick.
Huffing and puffing and spitting everywhere, I show up to the registration booth in plenty of time. Register. I’m Number 24 and wait for my heat. Heat 2. I have 30 minutes to impress the judges and get as many drops as possible. The dark clouds roll in and bust open as my heat begins.
To my disappointment the announcer calls, “Last drop ladies, make it count!”
Dang it! I want more. I step up the last stair reaching the top of the scaffolding where only a few girls are left waiting. I wish I would have landed more tricks. I breathe deep, concentrated on visualizing my last trick, a switch nose slide on the rainbow box. Pioneer Square is still cluttered by random on lookers, supporters, my friends, bright colored rain jackets and neon sunglasses reflecting the snow. It’s my last hit… I’ve got to make it count… one… two… three… drop…
With all the heats are finished, the announcer called for attention. “The results are in! If you hear your bib number you’ve made it to the finals! So here we go: 1, 8, 15, 17, 18, 20, 22…”
The white noise pauses, I ollie onto the rail switch pressing over the nose as much as I can go, my heart beats faster and faster as I glide in slow motion, the bottom of the rail coming into focus.
“I’ve got it… I’ve got it!” And in less than one second, I slid into the slush again.
I got up smiling, walked to over to my boyfriend and hoped all the other tricks would be enough. He swooped me up, sopping wet, he hugged me tight and holding me, shouting: “I’m so proud of you Jen! You killed it!”
So I didn’t make it to the finals in Portland, but I gave it my all. It was one of the best experiences so far. My friends were right there cheering me on and I was snowboarding in downtown Portland. Even though I fell on some of my tricks, the difference between me and the other girls wasn’t much. Looking back at all the photos, I did my best, even in the drenching rain, and I realized it doesn’t matter if you’re from a small town, it only matters how you get there.